06/01/2011

By Alex Micallef, Professional Services Manager, Exact

The success of any ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation starts at the planning stage with a structured approach to the project. It is essential that a detailed business requirements document is prepared at the outset which will describe in business terms what must be delivered or accomplished to provide value. A non-structured implementation approach can have severe consequences resulting in delays and additional cost further down the line.

The consultants implementing the solution can help with this planning process by undertaking a rigorous pre-sales interview to gather as much information as possible, so that they are aware of all your requirements. There is a lot to be taken into account, with all the different modules from finance, logistics, MRP, front office, as well as managing the workflow. It is vital to have a clear understanding of the implementation programme before any work commences.

The advantage of having a dedicated internal project team is that it will provide increased values as long as it is kept fully involved from the beginning of the process, right through to the end. If they are involved with the set up of the systems, this will enable them to obtain full ownership of the ERP system. It will be these members of the internal project team who hand on that knowledge to the rest of the company, so a ‘train the trainer’ approach will ensure that everybody in the project team is empowered together. They will be in possession of the blueprint for the system, so it is important that they are well trained in the fundamentals of how it will work. Whilst the provider can usually supply a specialist trainer if needed, it is in the client’s interest to do this in-house, as teaching others often gives the best insight into how a process works.

This can be easier said than done. The reality is that nobody likes change. Often, staff can find it difficult to come out of their comfort zone and accept that processes can be done differently. Therefore, senior management must take a lead and sponsor the project. There may have to be an internal selling job before acceptance starts to ripple through the company. This can often mean freeing up resources with external staff, so that permanent staff have time to properly embrace the new system. However, the more people who are empowered to use the ERP system, the more people there are who want it adapted to suit their own needs. The product can quickly be dragged about to make it bespoke to various departments, as individuals fail to look at the bigger picture. That’s simple human nature. It is during these important stages that the project team needs to keep a handle on the scope of the project and insist that the end product is delivered strictly to the original specifications. “Scope creep” can easily force the project over budget and increase timescales. It is vital to focus on the deliverables and then add any necessary supplements flagged up in the implementation.

The next stage is detailed user acceptance testing. In other words, the system must be rigorously tested to make sure it is fit for purpose and meets the needs of the company. There are lots of areas that must be tested before the Go Live phase. Maintaining a defects log to note down any glitches can be very useful, as these can be changed before the system is handed over.

You are now ready for the formal handover: the Go Live. A client support team will ensure the smooth running of the ERP, but with the right implementation strategy, the need for support will be greatly reduced.

Prevention is the best cure!

Exact are one of the leading providers of scalable solutions which cover all key business processes, allowing your people to share information and collaborate in real-time on a single platform. As well as helping organisations grow, Exact's solutions consolidate the processes of companies conducting business internationally.

Business on an international scale heightens the need for precise reporting and visibility; Exact offer a solution that is dedicated to giving a company's HQ total clarity on the entire business, from foreign subsidiaries to localised trading silos. With many businesses still performing a lot of tasks manually, or utilising IT systems that don't work together this provides complete process visibility and helps ensure employees work together to add value to the business.

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